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Start A Profitable T-shirt Business: The 2024 Complete Guide (+ Exclusive Promotion)

GemPages Team
Updated:
12 minutes read
How To Start Your Online T-Shirt Store

It is safe to say that everyone owns at least one t-shirt as it is a staple to every outfit. While sticking to basic colors never goes out of style, sometimes, you need that one special t-shirt that perfectly shows your humor and personality. Since this demand remains popular, selling t-shirts has become an evergreen market.

In eCommerce, t-shirts are one of the most common items to sell online. If you are an online seller who is looking to tap into this niche, this t-shirt business starter kit is exactly what you need.

Is T-Shirt Still a Profitable Niche in 2024?

To get the most impartial view of the t-shirt market in the upcoming years, let’s look at the statistics.

As a whole, the t-shirt industry is reported to have a steady annual growth rate of 3.10% from 2024 to 2027. While China takes the lead in revenue, with $5,920 million in 2024, the US remains the top consumer market. This aspect is especially noteworthy for sellers who are based in this country, or looking to cater to this lucrative market.

When it comes to custom printing t-shirts, the market will grow at the rate of 11.1% towards 2030. As this sub-niche has been gaining more recognition over the years, many online sellers have learned to apply this strategy to their businesses. Due to its elementary design, a t-shirt can accommodate both a premade design and a custom one. This further proved the versatility of this unassuming piece of clothing.

If we have managed to convince you to test the waters, keep that mouse scrolling to start learning how to start a t-shirt business online with us.

How To Start a T-Shirt Business Online

1. Pick a suitable niche

    As basic as a t-shirt is, the business model is not always straightforward. Different clothes match different people. Your job is to pick a suitable niche and build your business from it.

    The question is, where should you start?

    There are several ways that you can go about choosing a niche for your t-shirt business. Let’s explore below.

    Interest-based

    Take into account your own interests, whether they are from books, movies, TV shows, bands, sports, or a social movement. As long as there is a legitimate niche for it, that interest can become the core of your business.

    Screenshot of TeePublic’s website.

    TeePublic offers t-shirts with The Office designs for fans of the show.

    TeePublic’s wide range of products are not randomly selected. The brand enabled a “Shop by Category” feature for buyers to filter the exact items that match their interests. This way, everything from Television and Animals, to Sci-fi and so on can be easily browsed.

    Customers are also given the option to manually search for a keyword. By looking up “The Office”, buyers can start exploring an impressive t-shirt collection from independent artists with designs made for fans of this all-time favorite show.

    If you are a small business, it’s advisable to stick to one or two interests instead of going all in. The key to success lies in the quality of your products, not always the quantity.

    Being in the loop is always useful. With an everchanging industry like clothing where trends come and go in a matter of a blink, knowing what fashion fads are in style greatly influences what you sell.

    A universal rule of thumb: be specific!

    A “trending t-shirt designs” query on Google will reap numerous answers. You will more likely get lost trying to comb through these results than getting a proper idea.

    Instead, utilize helpful tools like Google Trends to get a more detailed answer. From then on, start browsing forums that house different communities to pinpoint their interests. For instance, if your target clients are sports fans, start leafing through communities of sports enthusiasts on sites like Reddit to see what’s popping. You will know what and who to base your designs on.

    Looking to reside with Shopify? Learn how to find trending products to sell on Shopify here:

    15 Best Products to Sell on Shopify

    T-shirts with a message

    Screenshot of MESS in a Bottle’s website.

    MESS in a Bottle’s t-shirts are all about delivering an important message.

    T-shirts are a great medium to spread awareness. One can express their beliefs, personality, and activism through this simple clothing article - all with a short and sweet message.

    MESS in a Bottle is a Black-owned clothing store whose products carry messages that embrace one’s identity, evoke changes, and give voices to an inclusive community. No complex design needed, their t-shirts are kept clean to let the messages speak for themselves. If you carry a similar mission, this sub-niche is worth consideration.

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    2. Choose a sales channel

    Screenshot of Shopify’s website.

    Shopify is a brilliant gateway to kickstart your eCommerce business.

    When you have gotten an idea about the niche, let’s get familiar with the different sales channels that your online store will be based on.

    Creating your storefront on veteran marketplaces like Amazon or eBay seems like a surefire way to start your t-shirt business. While there are definite advantages like a familiar interface and a steady flow of traffic, setbacks are also expected. Some of those are low customization freedom, high competitiveness, and limited payment gateways.

    If you feel confident and daring, building a website from scratch could be up your alley. However, as this process requires advanced coding knowledge and tech-savviness, most sellers often opt for a website builder, or better yet, a one-in-all eCommerce platform.

    Some of the reputable platforms are Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and so on.  

    Each platform comes with its exclusive perks, so it is recommended to prepare a checklist of your business needs and goals to find the best match.

    If you are a first-time business owner, a foolproof choice like Shopify is a good call. With its free trial and automated features, it is less daunting to start a new business. From that point on, a trustworthy page builder will help you set up your store and start selling in no time.

    Find out how to start a t-shirt business using Shopify with this guide from GemPages:

    Shopify Tutorial: How to Set Up A Shopify Store from Scratch for Beginners (2024)

    3. Brainstorm t-shirt designs

    You’ve got a business idea, now let’s talk about designs.

    If you possess an artistic flair and are well-versed in graphic design, feel free to let your ideas roam with Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and PhotoShop. Though this could increase your workload tenfold, it is never a bad call to create your original artwork. Outlets such as Zazzle, Dribbble, Behance, and Pinterest are home to the best design inspiration across the internet.

    Screenshot of Dribbble’s website.

    Dribbble is one of the most resourceful outlets for design inspiration.

    Alternatively, hiring a designer or buying designs can alleviate lots of extra work, but tend to be heavy on the expense. If you decide to go down this path, check out freelance designers on 99designs and Fiverr, or purchase various t-shirt designs on Creative Market and Designious.

    4. Find a reputable supplier and POD service

    A striking design will be fruitless on a subpar t-shirt. That’s why sourcing your material and printing supplier is an unskippable step.

    You can either work with a local supplier or use a dropshipping service to produce a t-shirt line without inventory management, fulfillment, or shipping.

    This business model is getting more traction in recent years, due to its convenience and foolproof nature. That said, many online sellers often associate dropshipping with low-quality products. From our POV, this is when choosing the right dropshipper for your needs comes into play.

    With t-shirts, the quality lies in the material, printing, and durability. Instead of looking for a random supplier, opting for a print-on-demand (POD) service that specializes in this niche is a must. Printful and Printify are both excellent choices for t-shirt merchants who want to implement this business model. Their guaranteed high quality, competitive prices, and full-fledged Shopify integration are what make these suppliers the top dogs in the industry.

    Screenshot of Printify’s website.

    Printify offers enticing perks for sellers who use its service.

    Moreover, both of these services offer mockup generators that showcase your designs. This tool is incredibly useful for sellers before launching the final products.

    Pro tip: Remember that Gempages possesses a top-notch feature, namely Image-to-Layout, which turns references into editable patterns. Here are inspiring success stories about Shopify Print-on-Demand Store Examples. Take a look to find your own way and create a Shopify store with GemPages.

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    No problem! Get started with GemPages' free plan. Explore wonderful features that can do wonders for your store.

    5. Price your products

    A pricing strategy is the core of every business plan. If you want to make a profit, the price has to be right.

    Depending on the location and scale of your business, there are different price points. Online stores that can sell a t-shirt for $5 to $10 often carry a huge number of items or are willing to sacrifice the quality for a lower cost of product. Unless this is the average price of t-shirts and similar products where you are based, we’d recommend pricing higher.

    A common price range for t-shirts is between $15 to $30 if you are a US-based business. After taking the average cost of products, printing methods, and profit margins into consideration, most store owners end up pricing their products in this range. Anything higher than $30 tells buyers that this is an exclusive product, whether due to the special material or unique artwork.

    Of course, doing market research is crucial to determine your prices. You will be able to make an informed decision after studying the competitors and making adjustments.

    6. Register your business

    This step ensures the validity of your business, no matter if it’s a full-time job or just a weekend hustle. According to US laws, by registering your online business as a limited liability company (LLC), you will receive qualification for business loans, tax benefits, and other additional branding opportunities. Your t-shirt business will look way more legit with a proper stamp of approval.

    7. Launch and promote your business

    This last step is when you make your t-shirt brand known. Everything builds up to the moment your store is officially launched. The key to keeping the momentum going is a well-designed website and an efficient marketing strategy.

    We at GemPages have compiled an intensive collection of blog posts for all your eCommerce marketing needs. If you want to start the business with no cost, here is a helpful guide for you: Start an eCommerce Business with No Money: The 2024 Complete Guide (+ Exclusive Promotion)

    5 Online T-Shirt Stores That Are Nailing It

    Each one of these online stores possesses a different vibe, but they all share one common trait: it’s all about t-shirts.

    While one store carries a wide range of items, the other is essentially a one-product business. Thus, their approaches to website design are noticeably different. This is why choosing a niche is the first and foremost step in starting your t-shirt empire, as it largely determines the appearance of your online storefront.

    Learn more: 18 Best One Product Shopify Store Examples in 2024

    Now, let’s take a peep at these 5 terrific t-shirt store examples to see what they are doing right.

    Factory43

    Screenshot of Factory43’s website.

    Factory43’s website is everything but boring.

    This US-based business is more than just a regular t-shirt brand. With both founders having a burning passion for graphic design, Factory43’s products proudly boast their original illustrations. Their artistic spirits translate into their online store as well, where buyers are greeted with unique visual elements across the pages. Though offering a variety of items like posters, stickers, hats, puzzles, etc, their t-shirts are the star of the show.

    What we love:

    • Eye-catching animation and easy navigation
    • Shop Pay as a payment method
    • Custom option with a showcase of past projects

    MAKE

    Screenshot of MAKE’s website.

    MAKE’s online store makes custom easy and fun for customers.

    You can catch onto MAKE’s vibes from miles away. This brand’s online store oozes personality with a vibrant color palette and equally colorful t-shirts. The website is easy to navigate despite MAKE’s hefty array of shirts, wallets, accessories, and souvenirs.

    What we love:

    • User-friendly navigation
    • A drop-down menu for shopping by category
    • Custom actions as well as MAKE original products
    • An active blog section

    Threadheads

    Screenshot of Threadheads’ website.

    Threadheads works its magic to turn a simple t-shirt into exciting items that keep you coming back for more.

    Threadheads designs clothes for everyday wear, and they are the furthest thing from ordinary. Their online store is a hub for finding comfy t-shirts with an empowering message, a silly illustration, or a Gen Z-approved meme. The brand prides itself on doing print-on-demand - a method that significantly reduces wastage and order returns.

    What we love:

    • Threadheads uses hip and humorous lingo, which makes the brand appear more friendly and human.
    • Cleverly sectioned products
    • Wholesale and custom printing options with a contact us form.

    Creative Apparatus

    Screenshot of Creative Apparatus’ website.

    Customizing t-shirts is made simple with Creative Apparatus’ intuitive online store.

    You might have seen this household name in other articles for the best clothing stores on Shopify, and it is well deserved. Creative Apparatus keeps it straightforward with its online store. A minimal navigation bar is all you need to start shopping, alongside a compelling hero image to top it off. Every element of Creative Apparatus’ store is purposeful and clear.

    What we love:

    • The company caters to individuals and retailers
    • Intuitive user interface
    • Original items with minimal designs

    Imouri

    Screenshot of Imouri’s website.

    Imouri caters to a niche community whose interests are aligned with the store’s designs.

    If you are not familiar with anime, this could be your first time hearing about Imouri. Founded in 2015, the brand’s ultimate vision is crafting high-quality apparel that captures the aesthetic of Japanese anime. The company went through a rebranding in 2019 and has been thriving in the market ever since.

    What we love:

    • A reasonable number of apparel and accessories to ensure quality
    • A handy product filtering system (by type, size, and price)
    • Lifestyle photography alongside studio ones.
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    Handy Tips To Build a High-Converting T-Shirt Store

    Don’t be too hasty to jump on the bandwagon

    You know the drills, don’t buy into the hype. Especially when it does not serve you.

    Studying trends is great, but having the ability to filter the mass to only apply what your brand needs is crucial. For example, if this cartoon character is gaining popularity in one country, it does not make sense to produce merch of said character when your business is based in another country. It’s better to appeal to a local market rather than trying to mindlessly follow every trend.

    Moreover, being trendy does not equal more profits. Customers come to your store for many reasons, namely quality, helpful customer support, convenient shipping, and the like. At the end of the day, a business requires commitment to every aspect in order to thrive.

    Use AI to get inspiration for your designs

    We know the topic of AI is still controversial. But for many entrepreneurs, a simple AI tool can save a whole lot of time and resources - the most valuable assets for startups.

    If you have something in mind but cannot visualize it, a basic but powerful tool like Bing Image Creator can help bring that idea to life, while AutoDraw lets you create nifty illustrations.

    We’d recommend using these tools as a reference to create your original artwork only, instead of copying and using them as is.

    Add your personal touch

    Brand identity and impression are made by imposing your personality onto every detail of your business, whether it is the website, logo, product designs, or packaging. A t-shirt is an ordinary item that people tend to wear over and over again, so it is best to showcase your brand’s vision and increase repeated purchases.

    Kickstart Your T-Shirt Business Today

    The clothing industry has never died down, especially with a versatile item like a t-shirt. Whether you are a newcomer or a veteran in the eCommerce scene, we believe anyone can successfully build a t-shirt business with this in-depth starter kit. A reliable platform like Shopify, with the help of GemPages Landing Page Builder, is the assistance you need to start working your magic today!

    starter-kit

    FAQ About T-Shirt Business Starter Kit

    Is selling t-shirts still profitable?
    Yes. The staggering number of 2 billion t-shirt units sold worldwide in 2023 is the living proof that this item has always been a popular demand.
    The t-shirt global market is reported to continue growing steadily in the next 4 years, with an annual rate of 3.10%, in which the print-on-demand niche is especially favorable. Starting an online t-shirt business in 2024 is a good idea to make profits.
    How to build an online t-shirt store?
    Depending on your location and business model, there are numerous ways to start an online t-shirt store. Here is a step-by-step guide that has all the essentials for you to start selling:
  1. 1. Pick a suitable niche
  2. 2. Choose a sales channel
  3. 3. Brainstorm t-shirt designs
  4. 4. Find a reputable supplier and POD service
  5. 5. Price your products
  6. 6. Register your business
  7. 7. Launch and promote your business
  8. Follow this link for the details of each step.
    What is a print-on-demand service?
    A print-on-demand (POD) service is an online business model where products are made, fulfilled, and shipped right after an order is made. This service alleviates the need for inventory management, fulfillment, and shipping for online sellers.
    Are t-shirts suitable for dropshipping?
    T-shirts are an excellent product for dropshipping. Several reliable suppliers are specialized in t-shirt production, such as Printful or Printify.
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